For senior Margaret Dredge one weekend last February, it was off with the typical college-student garb of jeans, T-shirt, and backpack, and on with the corporate-woman attire of suit, heels, and Gucci bag. She was preparing for a crucial weekend that could make or break her future as an arts-management professional.
For the entire weekend, Dredge hunkered down in a Washington, D.C., hotel suite and ran the gauntlet prescribed by the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) for finalists in its 1997-98 Orchestra Management Fellowship Program.
But the metamorphosis from grunge to glamour was well worth it. After a series of grueling interviews by some of the top orchestra managers in the country, Dredge was one of six participants selected as ASOL fellows from among more than 100 applicants nationwide.
The goal of the Orchestra Management Fellowship Program is to give participants the knowledge, practical experience, and contacts they need to become effective administrators, thereby enlarging the pool of qualified managers for American orchestras and other arts institutions. Oberlin has had one other ASOL fellow: Allison Vulgamore '80, president of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Dredge, from Arlington, Virginia, received her B.A. in English this May. During her Oberlin career, she worked as a reference assistant in the Conservatory library and as a senior intern in the Oberlin College Office of Admissions. A singer and pianist, she also sang with the Oberlin Musical Union, the Oberlin Women's Chorus, and the Oberlin Musical Theater Association.
"Oberlin has been a wonderful training ground for a career that I'm thrilled about starting," she said. "I came because of the musical opportunities offered on the campus, even though I always knew that I wouldn't be a performer.
"It all began my junior year with a suggestion from a very close family friend, who worked for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, that I do an internship at Tanglewood for the summer.
"I was able to do so, and when I returned to Oberlin in the fall, the ball just started rolling. The Conservatory's Career Development Office set me up with an internship at the Akron Symphony and I loved it!" Dredge worked one day a week as a marketing and public relations intern for the Akron ensemble.
A visit to Oberlin by Edward Yim, artistic administrator of the Cleveland Orchestra and a former ASOL fellow, cemented her career decision. Yim spoke about careers in arts administration. "I was impressed with his relative youth and capability in a demanding job at such a renowned institution. I began thinking, 'Wow, I can really do this!' and decided to apply for the ASOL fellowship," Dredge said.
Dredge will begin her intensive training program in August. Over the course of a year, she will participate in three extended residencies with professional orchestras of varying budget sizes. In addition, she will spend one week with a small-budget orchestra and two weeks in New York City as an introduction to the for-profit music industry.
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